Good gardeners always look ahead, even in the dead of winter. Apart from still planting deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers, one should also plant annuals and perennials which are just beginning to show colour now, as it will result in a rainbow of eye candy in early spring. Visit your local garden centre today, or miss out!
For spring fragrance in the form of lovely garden cutflowers, stocks (Matthiola incana) should be planted in large swathes now. Easy to grow annuals and perfect for gardens with sandy soil.
Hot tip: After giving your old containers a lick of fresh paint to make them look like new again, fill them up with fresh potting soil and combinations of indigenous colour like osteospermum, pelargonium, diascia and gazania – all in flower now!
Feed winter annuals and spring bulbs regularly with a water soluble fertiliser and keep on irrigating during dry weather, as the soil around them should never dry out completely.
Prune untidy shrubs not about to flower in spring, stake those which need sturdy support and replace ties where necessary. Also cut back ornamental grasses which have turned brown and dry.
Plant out lots of pansy and viola seedlings in well composted beds – the rewards are a welcome splash of colour to warm up those winter blues.
Feed clematis and fuchsias every two weeks with liquid fertiliser and pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushier growth and thus more flowers in spring.
Cut back bougainvilleas which have finished flowering, feed with a balanced fertiliser and water afterwards. Summer and autumn flowering climbers and shrubs like golden shower, barleria, ribbon bush, wild dagga and westringia also need pruning now.
Winter veggies for planting include cabbages, leeks, peas, turnips, carrots, radishes, beans, eggplant, pumpkin, broccoli, Swiss chard and Asian greens.
Hot tip: Cover your compost heap in very wet weather to stop rotting and nutrients from leaching out.
Winter backbone for now includes deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, birches and plane trees. Plant them today and enjoy their gloriously rich foliage colours for many an autumn to come.
Conifers cope well in the cold, and many varieties turn a wonderfully warm bronze or orange colour during the winter months. They grow best in full sun in an area where there is good air circulation. Remember that conifer aphid is very active during this month, remember to treat your plants with a systemic insecticide.
Hot tip: As conifers are growing actively in winter, it is a good time to shape and neaten old plants with judicious pruning.
Water veggies and herbs in containers twice a week and feed every second week with a soluble fertiliser. Fertilise citrus trees with granular fertiliser on their driplines and water well afterwards
Divide asparagus and rhubarb.
Hardy evergreen shrubs which look good all year round include nandina, viburnum, camellia, holly and elaeagnus. Indigenous plants that cope well with winter are river stars, sagewood, mountain sage, white stinkwood and the euryops species. Also invest in blossoming trees now. They love cold weather and in every spring for years to come, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful display.
Try flowering peach, plum, quince, cherry or crab apple.
Remember: Bees love spring blossoms!
As lawn maintenance is not a top priority in cold winter climes, take all your equipment for a service. Ask them to look at blunt blades that need re-sharpening, and to fix loose wheels. Petrol-driven machines must be washed and their fuel tanks emptied. Also oil all working parts and newly sharpened blades to stop rust.
In the veggie garden, stake broad beans and Brussels sprouts and start pruning deciduous fruit trees. Remember to order seed potatoes so long.
You can break up heavy clay soil by digging in a dressing of agricultural lime. Add a light dose of agricultural lime to irises and stocks too, it will promote good flowering in spring. Ailing lavenders and Clematis also benefit from a small dose of lime in winter.
Find the ‘goggas’ by digging over the soil around your fruit trees in the backyard during winter to expose any overwintering insects and fungi spores to frost. This is also your opportunity to create a neat basin around each tree, which makes deep watering with a hosepipe to get the moisture close to the roots, easier and less wasteful.
Time to plant peas in well prepared trenches. Enrich with compost and old kraal manure.
Use all sunny and protected spots in your garden to plant leafy winter veggies like Asian greens, especially the very ornamental giant red mustard. Fill up window boxes and patio pots with some veggie seedlings and small culinary herbs too.
Start pruning your roses at the end of the month and spray with lime sulphur afterwards. Feed them with a rose fertiliser afterwards and apply a new layer of mulch around the bushes. Also transplant roses that need to be moved now.
Tidy your garden shed and get rid of all the old chemicals you are not using anymore. They should under no circumstances be dumped in the rubbish. Phone your nearest nursery to find out how you can get rid of them in a safe manner.
Repair retaining walls and fill the cavities of those built with custom-made retaining blocks, with fresh soil mixed with compost and bone meal to be ready for holding new cascading and ground covering plants.
Plant more azaleas for a lovely spring show and remember to add acid compost and bonemeal to the holes.
Late winter means aloes – hardy, drought resistant and a feast for the eye. Do not miss out on new aloe hybrids which are on sale now!
Hot tip: Keep a look out for aloe cancer on existing plants – cut out all infected plant material and spray with a miticide.
Fertilise anything that is actively growing or in season, like winter vegetables, citrus, bulbs, annuals and small flowering succulents and azaleas with a liquid or specific fertiliser now.
Prune roses during the last week of July. Seal all wounds with a sealer, spray with fresh lime sulphur and feed every bush with a rose fertiliser.
Sow peas and radishes.
Make sure your bird feeder is well-stocked – there’s not much food around in the garden for birds in the winter months.
Now is a great time to cut back trees that are getting too big and are perhaps shading out the lawn or obstructing your view.
Fertilise roses and fruit trees with a balanced fertiliser and both will love a dressing of old kraal manure or compost (away from their stems).
Feed citrus with a granular fertiliser too and correct any deficiencies with a micro element mixture. Keep all the fed ones well-watered immediately afterwards.
It is a good time to re-pot and rejuvenate the water-loving plants in your water feature. An addition of kraal manure to the clay soil that your plants are growing in will do them wonders. Remember to add a thick 0.5 to 1cm thick layer of river sand on top of the kraal manure in the pot before carefully replacing it back in the water.
Look at your garden in terms of structure and access. Widen pathways that are being taken back by the encroaching garden, by adding more pavers. Add a “secret” pathway into very deep beds – this also assists tremendously with maintenance of the garden.
Add pavers and a bench as a focal feature.
Hot tip: When laying pavers make sure you use weed barrier cloth and river sand under them.
It is the best time of the year to do veggie gardening in the mild weather at the coast. Sow every two weeks to get a sustainable harvest of your favourite food stuff like beetroot, peas, cucumber, cabbage, pumpkin, squash, turnip, spinach, tomatoes, carrots and beans. Use bird netting to keep the birds away from soft new growth. Fertilise your veggie plants once a month. Prevent heavy aphid infestations by killing off ants with organic insecticides. Ants spread aphid infestations by milking them for honeydew, which is a food source to them.